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"Пить таблетки" (literally "drink pills") is a commonly used phrase. But why is it "пить" ("drink")? Naturally, pills are solid and thus can't be "drunk" in a traditional sense. There is phrase "есть таблетки" ("eat pills"), but it's more of a slang.

My best guess is that the phrase came from the time when most if not all medicine was in liquid form: sirups, infusions, etc. - but I'd like somebody with a better knowledge to confirm/deny it.

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    FWIW, in Japanese, you also drink (not eat) medicine. (薬を飲む。) – Philip Seyfi Jun 28 '12 at 8:32
  • I always use the verb "take" as in "Take your pills". :D – Alenanno Jun 28 '12 at 8:46
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    @Alenanno Yes, in English the phrase is "take your pills" (the word is "take"), however in Russian it's "пить" ("drink") – Aleks G Jun 28 '12 at 8:49
  • @AleksG I meant, also in Italian I use the correspondent... But every language is a whole different universe. :D – Alenanno Jun 28 '12 at 8:50
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    moreover, пить таблетки от головы )))) – shabunc Jul 5 '12 at 13:18
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Because you have to chase the pills down with water. Eating would also suggest chewing the pills rather than swallowing them. You can also say глотать таблетки (swallow pills), but it implies that there are quite a few pills being taken. Another way to say it is принимать лекарства (take medicines), but it is not specific to pills; принимать таблетки seems slightly weird colloquially, but is often used in instructions that come with pills.

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In addition to the reasons given by @kotekzot, пить лекарства (literally "to drink medicine") is often used to mean "to take medicine". This does seem to suggest that medicine was typically liquid and that the word пить was transferred to pills, since you have to wash them down with water anyway.

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"Пить таблетки" имеет общий смысл "пить лекарства", и поэтому русскоговорящие употребляют глагол "пить" со всем, что относится к понятию лекарства, которые принимают во внутрь через рот:

Пить порошки, пить микстуру, пить таблетки

"Drink pill" has a general sense of "take medicine" and is used in Russian with any drugs taken orally.

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    Welcome to Russian Language and Usage. Your answer is a duplicate. Please consider upvoting existing answers, which is our way of saying "thank you, I agree". Otherwise, please add something that has not yet been mentioned in other answers. Answers that are duplicates will be removed. – Olga Nov 9 '12 at 9:33
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Помимо таблеток есть еще порошки, и их тоже "пьют". Это обусловлено тем, что тврдые лекарства традиционно запивают (washing down?) водой, а воду "пьют". Drink your medicine, and be happy.

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    Welcome to Russian.SE. While likely correct, your answer does not provide any new information in addition to that already covered by other answers. Please refrain from simply repeating existing answers. – Aleks G Nov 12 '12 at 11:07
  • As @AleksG said, your answer does not seem to add to the answers given by the other users. Invest some time in the site and you will gain sufficient privileges to upvote answers you like, which is our way of saying "thank you, I like this answer, I agree with it". Duplicate answers will be removed. – Olga Nov 12 '12 at 21:43
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"Принимать таблетки (или другие лекарства)" is completely standard and acceptable in all varieties of speech and writing. "Пить таблетки" is colloquial, it is not normally used in writing. "Глотать" usually refers to the process of swallowing. Sometimes, in colloquial speech, it means "to eat or drink something in too large amounts", e.g. pills. I've never heard anybody saying "есть таблетки".

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    >in colloquial speech, it means "to eat or drink something in too large amounts - can you provide any example of such usage? As you can see, "пить таблетки" is actually not about eating something in large amounts. – shabunc Nov 9 '12 at 5:48
  • Welcome to Russian Language and Usage Beta! Although your post contains useful information, it does not answer the question. Please edit your post so that it corresponds to the question. Irrelevant answers will be removed. If you wish to add something to another answer, you could invest some time in our site first and earn privileges to leave comments or to edit answers of other people. – Olga Nov 12 '12 at 21:39
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You can use both. But russians prefer speak "пить таблетки" because pills are hard to swallow without liquid. And you always drink it. if you say you "съели таблетку" (ate a pill) you can be misunderstood and your companion may think that you are an addict. eat a pill that is also "used ecstasy".

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  • Thanks for your answer. However I'm interested in the origin/etymology of the first phrase, not the differences between the two. – Aleks G Nov 12 '12 at 11:00
  • Welcome to Russian Language and Usage Beta! Although your post contains useful information, it does not answer the question. Please edit your post so that it corresponds to the question. Irrelevant answers will be removed. If you wish to add something to another answer, you could invest some time in our site first and earn privileges to leave comments or to edit answers of other people. – Olga Nov 12 '12 at 21:41
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The separation between "есть" ("eat") и "пить" ("drink") is not expected to follow the rules of simplistic formal logic as in "solids are eaten, liquids are drunk". Russian is not the only language to which it applies.

For example, in Russian language most people will prefer to use the verb "to drink" when referring to consumption of milk and liquid milk-derived products. However, in many regional dialects of Russian language the preferred (or even exclusively used) verb is actually "to eat", as in "есть молоко" или "есть кефир".

The same could be true for medical drugs. There's no formal logic in the verb "to drink" being commonly used in this case. It is quite possible that this usage was inherited from the times when drugs were mostly prepared in liquid form.

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